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By Miriam Raftery

File Photo: CYT production of Les Mis in the Mount Helix amphitheatre.

October 4, 2021 (El Cajon) – Two men have been charged with felony sexual assault against students at Christian Youth Theater in El Cajon.

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan today announced that David Hott, 34, has been charged with two felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a 13-year-old child in 2007.  Brad Christian Davis, 40, is charged with  a felony count of sexual penetration by a foreign object involving at 16-year-old in 2010.

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit thanked victims for their “courage in coming forward,” adding, “We must hold these individuals responsible for their actions, so they don’t have the opportunity to harm more children in the future.”

If convicted, Hott could face up to 10 years in prison, while Davis could be sentenced to up to three years, Times of Sa Diego reports. Bail is set at $100,000 for each.

Because child victims of sexual abuse often wait years before reporting or speaking out, a longer statute of limitations applies than for some other crimes. 

“Protecting children from sexual predators and making sure they are not revictimized during the criminal justice process is my top priority,” Stephan stated.

The D.A.’s office has reportedly been investigating at least 10 complaints involving CYT locally.  Both the D.A. and SDPD are asking any other victims to come forward and contact the police department.

After serious allegations of sexual abuse surfaced last summer, including some against staffers not charged to date, CYT shut abruptly suspended its San Diego programs and CYT’s San Diego social media last July. 

However, the CYT San Diego website now lists an upcoming production of Rapunzel at the Pavillion at Legacy in San Diego Oct. 29-31.

CYT has its roots in El Cajon, where it formerly ran the city-owned East County Performing Arts Center for many years.  The theater fell into disrepair and was shuttered for a decade, until Live Nation assumed management of the facility.

Members of the Russell family, which founded CYT in 1981, would no longer serve in leadership roles, Artistic Director Robyn Rebold-Smith announced “with a heavy heart” in late July. However, Janie Cox, whose maiden name was Russell, is currently listed as director of the "Rapunzel" production, calling into question the accuracy of the information that CYT provided to the public.

Jessica Pride, an attorney representing victims, accused CYT of covering up crimes.  She told NBC 7, “CYT knew of the abuse for years and they created an environment that not only fostered it, but allowed for it to happen and then brushed it under the rug.”

CYT, which started in San Diego County, is continuing its children’s theater operations in other parts of the nation.

ECM has emailed CYT to request comments on today’s charges, as well as to ask what steps are being taken to protect children at its other operations and whether there are any plans to resume local theatre programs. 

On October 5, 2021, ECM received the following statement in response: "CYT strongly condemns the alleged actions by the accused individuals. The alleged actions of the accused unquestionably contradict our values and our mission. We have a thorough background check process for all our teachers, staff and volunteers as well as ongoing training requirements in child safety. These resources underscore our commitment to the safety of our children.  We will continue to fully cooperate with authorities during their investigation. Out of respect to all involved, we are unable to provide further comment."

Updates: An earlier version of this story stated that CYT suspended its San Diego operations. The article has been updated to include that CYT has resumed local operations with a production slated for late October.  ECM has also updated the story to include the fact that a member of the Russell family, Janie (Russell) Cox  is diretor of that production, despite promises from CYT last year stating that no member of the Russell family would have any leadership roles in the organization.

In addition, a statement from CYT received after this story was originally published has been added.

Read our earlier coverage:  July 23, 2020  July 25, 2020  July 28, 2020

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